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Parks & Rec Nears End Of An Era

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KALISPELL -

After more than four decades in service to Montana's parks, Kalispell Director of Parks and Recreation, Mike Baker, is retiring.

Mike Baker came to Kalispell's Parks and Recreation department after working for Montana State Parks for nearly two decades. After twenty-five years at the helm, he has doubled not only his staff, but also park acreage in the city. His last day is New Year's Eve.

"I will be in the office. I'm working up until the last day, probably not all day," said Baker with a chuckle.

Baker leaves behind a pretty impressive legacy.

"If it wasn't for Mike being innovative and creative a lot of these projects wouldn't have happened," said one of Baker's co-workers, Jennifer Young.

One of his biggest accomplishments is working to complete the youth sports complex, Kidsports, with more than thirty ball fields on 138 acres, but recreation superintendent, Jennifer Young, who has worked with Baker for twenty-four years, explains it is not all work and no play.

"Every day there is something different we can laugh about," said Young.

The national search for Baker's replacement is already underway. Two internal applications have already been submitted and Baker has gotten several calls from job seekers asking about his role.

"It's not necessarily a traditional Parks and Rec. position because we wear a lot of different hats," explained Baker.

This jack of all trades may not work for the city anymore in 2014, but Baker plans to continue spending time outdoors, where his passion began, in the Flathead.

"I'll miss just about every aspect of the that job I have," said Baker.

Baker also points out that when he began as director, there were only two recreational programs, including a swimming class.

Today, there are closer to sixty.

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